Review Summary: Energetic and grandiose Finnish melodeath marred by an absurdly slow start.
I’ve come to something resembling a revelation on my third or fourth listen to Queen of Time
. The thirteenth full length outing from prolific Finnish melodic death metal outfit Amorphis has stumped me in a decidedly curious way. In fact, I would say it’s fooled me, more than once. It’s an album that comes off as dense and grandiose at first listen, yet the ways Amorphis approach songs leave me feeling as though they’re far more straightforward. Take “The Bee” for example. Opening tracks tend to end up being volatile and attention grabbing, some bands even tripping up and putting their best song right at the beginning only for listeners to inevitably be let down by the rest of the album. “The Bee” wants us to think it has a lot going on, but in reality it’s deceptively simple to the point of being uninteresting. Between odd glitzy electronics and galloping riffs that try to hide their run of the mill nature by synchronizing extravagantly with the orchestrations, it’s a track that hides simplicity behind an illusion of density. This illusion has made me question the complexity of Queen of Time
completely. Hell, it’s made me question a lot of albums I’ve previously enjoyed and considered to be dense listens. Perhaps metal has become a genre full of musicians hiding basic songwriting and ideas by throwing so many of them at listeners until they don’t know left from right. I will continue to believe that it is not true of as many great artists as I fear, though in Amorphis’ case I’ve concluded there is indeed something of real interest hidden in the maelstrom of grandiose orchestrations and flamboyant heavy metal.
Like “The Bee”, “Message In The Amber” isn’t much of a rewarding song after first listen and so Queen of Time
struggles to really kick into gear. “Daughter Of Hate” is the moment that I began to question my many concerns about the album, however. It’s both symbolic of my previous issues, and a composition that defies it. With close inspection the pieces aren’t terribly surprising, but unlike prior tracks “Daughter Of Hate” is startlingly better paced and spiced with fun instruments like saxophones and trumpets. The dynamics feel more distinguished here, and it quickly becomes apparent this will be the benchmark that the rest of the album is judged by. Largely, the rest Queen of Time
holds up well next to this standard, but some tracks still end up boiling down to blurs of pompous hundred-mile-per-hour slabs of European metal. “Amongst Stars” stands out thanks to the nice male to female vocal dynamic between guest singer Anneke van Giersbergen and frontman Tomi Joutsen, while “Pyres On The Coast” is an effectively apocalyptic closer.
Queen of Time
clearly picks up a lot of steam after the early lull. Admittedly, it’s a large lull to swallow since it amounts to about twelve straight minutes of boredom, but for the most part it manages to hold attention until the end. So now I can only wonder why I feel so much disquiet in the aftermath. There’s little obvious fault in the instrumentation beyond occasional passages that are too straightforward for their own good, and Tomi Joutsen is an effective singer, although his clean vocals sporadically lose their edge. Quite a bit of Queen of Time
I would certainly chalk up as “good”, but it’s hard to rate it any higher. That nagging feeling that so much of it is a result of an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach has stolen much of its thunder. In retrospect, maybe I’m burned out. Maybe I’m just a jaded fool that’s not in the right place in my life to appreciate Queen of Time
for what it is (God, I hope so), but there’s still plenty of energetic Finnish melodeath for genre fans to enjoy here.